Friday, May 28, 2010

Houston Wire & Cable to acquire two companies

Houston Wire & Cable Company has agreed to acquire two wire companies from Teleflex Inc. for a total of $50 million, according to the Houston Business Journal.

Houston will purchase Southwest Wire Rope LP and Southern Wire LLC.

Houston-based Southwest Wire Rope supplies material handling, lifting and mooring products. The company has two offices in Houston and two Louisiana.

Southern Wire, a 30-year-old company based in Olive Branch, Miss., supplies industrial wire rope. In addition to the Mississippi location, the company has offices in Henderson, Nev. and Kansas City, Mo.

Both companies were part of Teleflex Commercial, a division of Limerick, Pa.-based Teleflex Inc. which provides products and services to the marine and industrial markets.

Houston Wire & Cable expects to close on the deal by the end of the second quarter.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Graybar names new vice president

Distributor promotes 12-year company veteran; NAED announces 2010-2011 board of directors

St. Louis-based electrical distributor Graybar has named Steve Stone vice president of its comm/data business.

Stone has been with Graybar for more than 12 years, serving in several sales and management roles, most recently as director of comm/data sales for the distributor's Pittsburgh region. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and is also a graduate of the Graybar/Rutgers Supply Chain Management Program.

Graybar specializes in electrical, communications, and networking products and has nearly 240 distribution facilities in North America.

In other electrical industry news, the National Association of Electrical Distributors announced its 2010-2011 board of directors this week. Jack Henderson, executive vice president of Hunzicker Brothers, Inc. in Oklahoma City, was named chairman of the board. Henderson is a 40-year industry veteran who's held many leadership positions within NAED, including chairman of its Government Affairs Policy Committee and vice president of the association's Western Region Council in 2008-2009.

Other board members for the coming year are:
  • Chair-Elect: Robert Reynolds Jr., Graybar, St. Louis
  • Past Chair: Burt Schraga, Bell Electrical Supply, Santa Clara, Calif.
  • Eastern Region Chair: Fil Cerminara, F&M Electric Supply Co., Danbury, Conn.
  • South Central Region Vice President: Ray Womack, Womack Electric Supply Co., Burlington, N.C.
  • Western Region Vice President: Rocklan Lawrence, National Electric Supply Co., Albuquerque, N. Mex.
  • Eastern Region Vice President-Elect: Dan Nitkowsky, Mars Electric Co., Willoughby, Ohio
  • South Central Region Vice President-Elect: Maureen Barsema, BJ Electric Supply, Inc., Madison, Wis.
  • Western Region Vice President-Elect: Andrew Akers, D&S Electrical Supply Co., Pocatello, Idaho
  • Finance Committee Chair: Daniel Durgan, Springfield Electric Supply Co., Springfield, Ill.
  • NAED Members At Large: Christopher Hartmann, International Elecgtric Supply Corp., Dallas; Charles Loeb, The Loeb Electric Co., Columbus, Ohio; Peter Bellowar, Colonial Electric Supply Co., King of Prussia, Pa.; Pete Lemman, North Coast Electric Co., Seattle; August Sodora Jr., Swift Electrical Supply Co., Teterboro, N.J.
  • Foundation Chair: Sandra Rosecrans, City Electric Co., Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Foundation Chair-Elect: Joe Huffman, Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Westlake Village, Calif.
  • Manufacturer Representative: Stuart Thorn, Southwire Co., Carrollton, Ga.
  • IDEA Vice Chair: Lawrence Stern, Standard Electric Supply Co., Milwaukee, Wis.
  • LEAD Committee Chair: Vitto DiMaio, North Coast Electric Co., Bend, Oregon

Machine tool consolidation continues

Based on a what it calls a positive response from Hardinge Inc. (Nasdaq: HDNG) shareholders, Industrias Romi S.A. (Bovespa: ROMI3) ("Romi"), a leading global manufacturer of machine tools, today announced the extension of the offering period for its tender offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Hardinge for $10.00 per share to 5:00 pm, New York City time, on June 18, 2010, unless further extended or terminated.

The offer and withdrawal rights were previously scheduled to expire at 5:00 pm, New York City time, on May 26, 2010. As of 5:00 pm, New York City time, on May 26, 2010, 4,444,444 shares, representing over 38% of Hardinge's outstanding shares, have been validly tendered and not withdrawn.

The $10.00 per share all-cash offer represents a premium of 105% to Hardinge's closing share price on December 14, 2009, when Romi first formally communicated to Hardinge its interest in pursuing a business combination. The offer is not subject to confirmatory due diligence or any financing condition and will be funded entirely from Romi's internal resources.

Hardinge Inc. is an international provider of advanced metal-cutting solutions. The Company has a very diverse international customer base and serves a wide variety of end-user markets. Along with metalworking manufacturers that make parts for a variety of industries, its customers include numerous end users in the aerospace, agricultural, transportation, basic consumer goods, communications and electronics, construction, defense, energy, pharmaceutical and medical equipment, and recreation industries, among others. Hardinge employs approximately 1,138 employees worldwide with manufacturing operations in the United States, Switzerland, Taiwan and China. Its global headquarters are located in Elmira, N.Y.

"Over the past several weeks we have had the opportunity to engage in productive dialogue with many Hardinge shareholders," said Livaldo Aguiar dos Santos, Chief Executive Officer of Romi. "We believe that these tender results, together with the significant withhold vote against the Hardinge director nominees at this year's annual meeting, are a clear indication that a large number of shareholders want Hardinge to dismantle its aggressive takeover defenses and negotiate a transaction with Romi.

"Given the ongoing consolidation in the machine tools industry and the significant competitive pressures facing Hardinge, we continue to believe that a transaction with Romi, which would provide Hardinge shareholders immediate liquidity at superior value, is the best strategic alternative available to Hardinge. Based on Romi's 80-year experience in the industry, and in view of the fact that Hardinge has not shared the detailed forecasts or valuation analysis that led them to reject our increased offer, we do not believe that Hardinge's current standalone business model will deliver equivalent or superior value, particularly given the uncertainty surrounding the strength of a potential recovery," continued Mr. dos Santos.

Industrias Romi S.A. (Bovespa: ROMI3), founded in 1930, is a market leader in the Brazilian machinery and equipment industry. The company manufactures machine tools, mainly lathes and machining centers, plastic injection and blow molding machines for thermoplastics and parts made of grey, nodular or vermicular cast iron, which are supplied rough or machined. The company's products and services are sold globally and used by a variety of industries, such as the automotive, general consumer goods and industrial and agricultural machinery and equipment industries

Monday, May 24, 2010

IBM to buy Sterling Commerce

Acquisition enhances IBM's industry-focused software offerings

IBM Corp. has agreed to purchase industry-focused software provider Sterling Commerce from AT&T for $1.4 billion in cash, the companies announced today. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2010.

Sterling Commerce is a software and business-to-business technology company based in Central Ohio. The firm serves customers in the manufacturing and distribution industries, as well as financial services, retail, and communications companies.

IBM said Sterling's products complement its middleware portfolio and will enhance its industry-focused software offerings, adding to its frameworks that support retail, manufacturing, communications, health care, and banking industries.

Sterling Commerce employs about 2,500 people worldwide. An IBM spokesperson said there will be no job cuts tied to the acquisition, according to a report in Business First of Columbus.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Small business owners remain pessimistic

The National Federation of Independent Businesses’ ( monthly Small Business Economic Trends Report for April shows that optimism rose 3.8 percent to 90.6 . However, despite gains in nine of the ten index components, NFIB says that this is not enough to indicate that a “solid” recovery is underway.

NFIB reported that capital spending and plans to make outlays are at historic low levels. “Owners,” the report said, “ are very satisfied with current inventory stocks but do not plan to add aggressively, apparently because they are not very optimistic about the course of future sales and business conditions. The percent of owners reporting “weak sales” as their top problem did drop five points, but 29 percent still see this as their major challenge.”

Ninety-one percent of the owners said they got all the credit they wanted (or did not want any), only four percent said credit was their top business problem. Regular borrowers did report credit “hard or harder” to get, but that should be no surprise. So with capital spending,inventory investment and hiring plans at record lows, there is little credit demand.”

More firms still plan to reduce employment than to add new workers and a historically low 11 percent report job openings. “Uncertainty is the enemy and Washington is a major source of uncertainty for business owners,” the report said.

For a detailed copy of the report, go to

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brady Corp., others boost sales and profits

The recovery continues as manufacturers see sales rise worldwide

Identity and safety products maker Brady Corp. posted solid third-quarter results today, with a return to organic growth in all regions. Third-quarter sales rose 16.3% for the Wisconsin-based manufacturer, comprised of 8.5% organic growth, 2% growth from acquisitions, and a 5.8% contribution from foreign currency exchange. The company's profits rose 32% in the third quarter.

Regionally, Brady saw organic growth in all regions it serves: in North America, sales rose 9.7%; in Europe, 6.1%; and in Asia-Pacific, 9.4%.

Although the company remains cautious about the global economic outlook, company leaders say they are focused on growing the business by expanding its product offering and market reach.

Other thrid-quarter highlights include Brady's acquisition of France-based first aid supplier Securimed and the generation of $50 million in cash flow from operations.

The news followed positive results from diversified manufacturer ITW and electrical distributor Graybar yesterday. ITW reported a 19% rise in operating revenues, with base revenues up 12% due to increased demand across consumer and industrial end markets in North America and internationally. By segment, the manufacturer's operating revenues were up substantially in key areas such as transportation (34%), industrial packaging (25.2%), and polymers and fluids (23.4%).

ITW predicts second-quarter growth of between 15% and 19% and earnings per share of between 74 cents and 86 cents.

ITW has also been on the acquisition trail, adding to its ionization and static electricity control business with the purchase of Ion Systems, Inc. Ion Systems--a maker of electronic static control products for the semiconductor, mass storage, and electronics markets--will become part of ITW's Simco Electrostatic Processes platform.

Also yesterday, electrical distributor Graybar posted a 42% rise in profits on slightly lower sales in the first quarter.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mixed data on housing

U.S. housing starts increased for the second straight month in April, the Commerce Department reported today but building permits dropped sharply.

Housing starts increased 5.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 672,000 from a revised 635,000 in March. April's starts marked the highest level of new construction in 18 months.

Starts of single-family homes rose 10.2% in April to a 593,000-unit annual rate, the highest since August 2008.

Building permits, a sign of future construction, fell 11.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 606,000, the lowest in six months.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Respect for the profession of selling

Here is the latest blog I recently posted on Modern Distribution Management ( . MDM is the leading newsletter for information on the wholesale distribution sector and in a few weeks will be publishing its first Market Leaders report. It 's an in-depth study of the industry you won't want to miss.

Respect for the profession of selling

I attended a seminar a few weeks ago in which the presenter, sales trainer Joe Ellers of Palmetto Associates pointed out that “selling is a profession on par with a design engineer or a doctor. Present yourself as a professional.”

On the surface that is true. Selling is a great profession and a tremendous career opportunity. A good salesperson is part psychologist with the ability to “read” a customer. He/she is a problem solver, an application provider who has the uncanny ability to know when to listen and when to talk (In fact actually listening to the customer is probably one of a salesperson’s top attributes.)

So you would think that sales would be a respected profession. But, in the minds of many people, that isn’t the case.

The old perception of a salesperson still exists. Tell someone you’re in sales and often the reaction is a forced smile. Some people still believe that anyone in sales is like Herb on the old television show “WKRP in Cincinnati.” You know, the kind of guy who wears loud jackets, tells jokes and brings doughnuts on sales calls. In the “old days” these salespeople were considered simple “order takers” rather than problem solvers.

That type of salesperson doesn’t exist anymore. Today distributor salespeople are technically knowledgeable and work with the buyers’ teams to solve problems, recommend applications and new products that make it easier for the customer to increase productivity.

It’s a shame that salespeople don’t have more respect. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to travel and interview many distributor salespeople and have come away impressed with their knowledge and enthusiasm for selling.

Sure, there are some salespeople that demean the profession, but that happens in every business.

A top salesperson isn’t happy with the status quo but seeks to improve his or her selling skills by reading self-help books, attending sales seminars and looking for other ways to improve their selling techniques. It benefits them of course, but in the end it also brings up the status of the profession.

Jack Keough is a contributing editor to Modern Distribution Management and the owner of Keough Business Communications. He can be reached at or by phone at 508-734-0029. Keough is the former editor of Industrial Distribution Magazine.

Bosch Rexroth predicts growth in 2010

Manufacturer of drive and control technologies expects a return to growth; sees strong results in China and India

Bosch Rexroth AG, the Germany-based global provider of electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechatronic components and systems, said last week it expects a "noticeable recovery" in the second half of 2010 following a 30% drop in sales in fiscal 2009. Incoming orders in the first few months of the new year have already surpassed the previous year's figures, the company says, and a new market structure beginning this summer will help the firm capitalize on those results.

Bosch Rexroth posted sales of 4.1 billion Euros (roughly $5 billion) in fiscal 2009. A quarter of those sales came from the company's business in Asia, which accounted for just 16% of company sales over the last few years. The manufacturer expects continued strength in Asia and pointed to double-digit increases in China and India in 2009 despite the overall sales decline.

"The [economic] crisis rapidly accelerated Asia's importance for our company," said company chairman Dr. Albert Hieronimus, adding that Bosch Rexroth will expand its presence in the region in the years ahead.

The manufacturer will also expand its business in Brazil, where it managed to sustain pre-crisis business levels in 2009.

Looking ahead, Bosch Rexroth will go to market with a new structure focused on specific markets and industries this summer. Beginning July 1, the company will focus on three business units: Mobile Applications, Industrial Applications, and Renewable Energy. The change reflects a shift among end users toward companies that can provide one-source, multi-technology solutions.

A rough year for building material suppliers

2009 was not just a bad year for suppliers of building materials. It was a horrible year in which sales for the biggest suppliers in the industry dropped a group-wide 24 percent, according to ProSales magazine's 100 Report for 2010. Click for full story. Ninety companies posted declines in sales and 39 dropped 25 percent or more.

At the 50 biggest companies that responded to both last year's and this year's ProSales 100 survey, total payroll count dropped by 14,082 to reach 54,636 workers, according to the magazine. That's a 20.5% decline, and it comes on top of about 20,000 workers cut by the top 50 companies that took part in both the 2009 and 2008 ProSales 100. Among the biggest reductions were Stock Building Supply (down 54% in sales, 68% in personnel) and BMC Select, the former Building Materials Holding Corp. (down 46% in sales, 51% in staff). Both Stock and BMC spent time last year reorganizing under Chapter 11 and emerging as slimmer, more focused companies, ProSales reported.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stock Building Supply buys Bison Building Holdings

Stock Building Supply buys Bison Building Holdings

Stock Building Supply Holdings, LLC (Stock), an affiliate of The Gores Group, announced today that it entered into an agreement to purchase the assets of Bison Building Holdings, Inc. and its subsidiaries. Bison is a leading supplier of building materials in Texas focused on the greater Houston area. Under the agreement, Stock will purchase substantially all of the assets of Bison pursuant to Section 363 of Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The transaction is Stock’s second acquisition this quarter and furthers bolsters the company’s core residential business. Joe Appelmann, CEO of Stock, stated: “The combination of Bison and Stock creates a clear market leader in Houston with the breadth of capabilities and combined talent to deliver a compelling value proposition to our customers.” ”

Tom Tolleson, Chief Operating Officer of Bison, stated: “This is an exciting opportunity for Bison, our customers and employees. Stock’s national reach, financial stability and strong customer relationships make it an ideal partner for Bison. We look forward to working with Stock’s management team to ensure a smooth and rapid transition.”
Bison filed a voluntary petition for federal bankruptcy reorganization on June 28, 2009. Stock intends to complete the transaction on or shortly after June 29, 2010.

Grainger’s April sales up 16%

Business with resellers, heavy manufacturing customers drives growth in U.S. Market

W.W. Grainger said today its April sales increased 16% compared to April 2009. Those results include a 5 percentage point positive contribution from acquisitions and 3 percentage points from foreign exchange. Excluding acquisitions and foreign exchange, Grainger's daily sales rose 8%.

By segment, Grainger's sales rose 8% in the United States, including a 2% contribution from acquisitions. Business with resellers and heavy manufacturing customers contributed to much of the growth, although business to light manufacturing, retail, and commercial customers was up as well.

Grainger's business to U.S. government and contractor customers was down, due in part to poor comparisons to April 2009, when the distributor benefitted from large orders of pandemic-related products to help customers combat the H1N1 virus outbreak. Those weak comparisons will continue into May, the company said.

Daily sales in Canada rose 17%, including a 3% contribution from acquisitions. Grainger cited strong business with large oil and gas customers due to maintenance shutdowns.

Daily sales for Grainger's other business were up 270%, due mainly to incremental sales from the businesses it acquired last year in Japan and India, as well as growth in existing Chinese and Mexican markets.

Looking ahead, Grainger said it expects double-digit growth in May, though not as high as the 16% growth reported in April.